Mainstream Marijuana And The “Gupta Effect”

Sanjay_Gupta@MAKE

On the eve of our industry’s “high holiday,” CNN aired the third installment of Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s series of marijuana documentaries Weed 3: The Marijuana Revolution, which was viewed by millions of households across the country.

Rewind six years, Dr. Gupta very publicly opposed medical marijuana, penning a TIME Magazine cover article titled Why I Would Vote No On Pot, in which he basically recycled the same arguments against marijuana—the health consequences don’t outweigh its benefits,   Four years later, going full mea culpa, he wrote about why he was wrong about weed. Now, after his third primetime documentary, there’s no question about it — he is now all in, going so far as to call for immediate, nationwide legalization of medical marijuana.

Dr. Gupta is easily the most recognized, trusted, and broadcasted medical doctor in the country (Sorry, Dr. Phil—you don’t count), and we would venture to guess not even 1 in 50 people could name the current United States Surgeon General (a position to which President Obama nominated Dr. Gupta, who turned down the offer). It’s hard to overstate the importance his documentaries have had on shaping public attitudes toward medical marijuana as he helps bring marijuana into the mainstream.

Why is this the case?

He helps reject negative stereotypes about marijuana that impede its necessary and inevitable transition from taboo to legitimacy. Nowhere is this clearer than in his coverage of mothers. Probably the most resonant and compelling depictions in his documentaries have been the mothers who use cannabis to treat their children’s epileptic seizures, occurring sometimes over 1,000 times per day. The documentary shows the unthinkable hardships faced by parents around the country whose lives revolve around and are torn apart by treating their child’s intractable disease.

Currently, the marijuana movement has suffers from somewhat of a public perception issue. Many people still generally associate marijuana with “stoners” and watching mothers treat their children with non-psychoactive CBD extract instantly shatters that perception, demonstrating an unquestionably legitimate medical purpose and putting a human face on a plant that has been irrationally vilified for decades.

More importantly, Dr. Gupta is able to bring the right people to the table to have a long-overdue conversation on marijuana policy. He got President Obama to provide, on primetime time television, his most supportive public comments on marijuana in his tenure. He brings in top-talent in the medical community, like Dr. Sue Sisley, and Dr. Donald Abrams, both of whom will be sharing their research findings at our event, Illinois Medical Cannabis Physicians’ Summit on June 5th in Chicago.

The bottom line is that Dr. Gupta’s documentaries exemplify advocacy in its highest form — fact driven, balanced, free of hyperbole, and supported by credible evidence. The most needed and effective marijuana advocacy is not that which merely reinforces the beliefs of the already-convinced; it is that which breaks down the wall of prohibition, brick-by-brick, fact-by-fact, and doctor-by-doctor. It is that sort of fact based scientific analysis that will lead the revolution to legalize marijuana.